One of the excursions which Olympic Holidays offer is called ‘A Taste of Crete’. It runs on a Sunday, and gives guests the chance to find out about the ingredients used in Greek or Cretan dishes.
The trip takes you to 15km away from the city of Chania, to the Botanical Park of Crete (Βοτανικό Πάρκο Κρήτης), which is described by its website as “the newest and most interesting sites of the Prefecture of Chania which lies on the feet of the White Mountains“.
So first, whilst everyone drank a type of tea known locally as Malotira (Μαλωτήρα), the Cretan mountain tea which is said to be a “cure all”, the guide Dimitris explained about how the park is unique because the microclimate makes it ideal for all sorts of plants. Fruit trees from all over the world producing edible fruit as well as herbs, pharmaceutical and ornamental plants are all scattered around the very small area.
Then we went for a little walk in the mountains, Dimitris explaining the importance of some of the plants to people today, the ancient Greeks and everyone in between. There were herbs such as Δίκταμνο; (Dittany) and Βασιλικός (Basil) – used a lot in Greek cooking; there were fruits and vegetables such as Pomegranates and Bananas. At the bottom of the mountain, you walk past the orange trees, and you’ll be able to pick one to eat as you have a break by the lake.
There is lots of wildlife in the area – eagles, and what Dimitris called a “wild bird” – he said the Greek name was Πέρδικα… and after looking it up in our dictionary we realized it was a partridge!
After a short break it was time to move on and walk back up the mountain. When you get back to the top you will be asked to sit in a circle around a table inside their taverna and there will be a cooking demonstration… when we went we were shown how to make Boureki (Μπουρέκι), Tzatziki (Τζατζίκι) and Simbetheriko (Σιμπεθερικό).
Afterwards, there was some wine tasting (or, for those who don’t drink, fresh orange juice from the orange trees by the lake), and then its time for lunch. You will eat the dishes shown to you in the demonstration! They actually take a couple of hours to cook, so you’ll probably eat some which they made earlier… 😉
There’ll be a chance to buy some of the products they sell, before getting back on the coach… but even then the day isn’t over: Dimitris took us into the Greek part of Chania, where you can buy a drink or an ice cream, or walk down the steps straight into the sea below! Then you will be dropped off at your hotel or apartment.
Dimitris did his tour in both English and German, and if you’re going to do I’d reccomend doing it with a guide (like I said earlier, we booked through the tour operator). If not, you can go to the taverna independantly by car and have a meal there, or just walk around the actual park. Look at my Google Map to see where on Crete you’ll find it.
Entrance to the park is €4, children under 12 go free if they are accompanied by a parent. The park is open 8am to 8.30pm every day from April to October.
And now, here is a video Dad took on his camera whilst at the park: